Every year, before Gen Con Indy starts, I try to write a little piece that puts the readers as well as myself in the right frame of mind for Gen Con. I’ve likened it to Gamer Mecca, and the sense of wonder I feel every year as similar to the giant doors opening in Jurassic Park. It still fails to convey what Gen Con truly is like.
Try this: Indianapolis, one of the largest cities in the Midwest (and 14th-largest in the United States overall), is taken over for 4+ days by gamers. There are gamers in every downtown hotel, gaming in the lobbies 24/7. There are gamers in every downtown restaurant. The skyway network that links downtown Indianapolis together has continual gamer traffic. Walking down the street in the early morning hours, a group apparently comprised of elven warriors halts jovially at the crosswalk. Any open square of downtown Indy is the possible venue for a one-shot, card game, or swag count. Long after the exhibit hall closes for the day, Gen Con continues unabated.
And despite how very massive the entire business is, it feels like Home.
We come from all over. Some of us are professionals in the business, some of us your standard hobbyists. Some of us are staying in upscale hotels, some of us are washing up as best we can at a public bathroom after a night sleeping in a hallway. Some prefer quiet games with friends, others get blitzed and drunkenly game with complete strangers before passing out around 5:00 am. Some are keyed in to every release from small-press RPG companies, and others don’t know or care about a thing outside of D&D, circa 2 editions ago. It doesn't matter. No matter how eclectic your taste, someone there shares it. And you're all gamers alike.
But at Gen Con, you can still see the absolute diversity of the hobby. And for every storm cloud seen, there are a hundred legacies and futures still abounding. Beyond RPGs, the board games, PC games, foam weapon fighting, seminars, meetups, CCG tourneys, film festivals, impromptu games, old wargames, and junk vendors all add to the sum total of it all. You could spend two more weeks there, and still not see it all.
Gen Con Indy is where the new releases happen, where new deals are made, where old friends are reunited, where controversy breeds, where people meet their favorite authors, where you get waved into the exhibit hall by Imperial Stormtroopers, where you end up peeing next to a guy dressed up like Captain America, where people go from game to game to game with barely because they know the 4 days pass by all too quick. It’s where you meet the sort of people you didn’t think could exist (take that as you will).
For those four days every August, a “city on a hill” forms for gamers. It’s part of what makes Gen Con different from every other gaming convention out there. We find meaning in different places, as citizens of different aspects of that city. I love Gen Con, because I love my hobby and my gaming. It’s my sincere hope for you that one day you make it to Gen Con, whether you stay in luxury or crash on a floor, and enjoy the meaning you find there. Make the journey Home!